Hang up your own shingles

September 4, 2006

It seems to me the age of the independent drugstore is rising. I mean it! I know that many privately owned pharmacies are being bought by chains. I know older owners can get worn down. After countless seasons of six days a week, they want some of the goodies that a life of hard work promised. The chain closes the store. The owner works a little relief for the chain and gets some rewards for all those decades in the trenches. What's so bad about that?

The 21st century is going to bring opportunity to enterprising young pharmacists who want to put in the energy to work for themselves. After all, people still like the service and the convenience of a neighborhood drugstore. Delivery is important to some. A friendly druggist who calls your name makes the ones who hide back in the corner look bad. There are plenty of pharmacists who are motivated solely by a paycheck.

I was a chain pharmacist for many years. The last thing I wanted at 4:00 P.M. was for the tech to say, "Mrs. Morris wants to talk with you." Arrrgh! I can't take it anymore. We are too far behind! I avoided looking at Mrs. Morris. She moved right in front of me. If I made eye contact, I'd be dead in the water. I actually picked up the phone and faked a conversation with a phantom doctor. She said my name loudly and I looked up. It was over. She had me.

"Does it work?"

"For what?"

"I want to know if it is good for hot flashes."

"Oh, I'll go ask if she knows."

I may be exaggerating the importance of service, but I cannot overstate this: In the 21st century, one thing remains the same. There are only so many pharmacists to go around, and some of them are not going to be able to work for a chain because they're going to be running their own stores.

The chains will always play the take-away game. They take away your cashier after 7:00 P.M. They take away tech hours to balance the budget. To get a summer vacation, you have to schedule a year in advance. So, what the hell, you may as well be working for yourself. There are going to be plenty of Rxs for you to fill. The boomers are determined to stay healthy and sexy. Better living through chemistry.

In this order, find a good spot, hang up your shingles, give good service, and work hard. When you get old and tired, just sell to the chain, work part-time, and play tennis four days a week. Life could be worse.

THE AUTHOR is a community pharmacist who lives in Galveston, Texas. You can e-mail him at jpgakis@hotmail.com
and cc us at drugtopics@advanstar.com
. You can also check out his Web site at http://jimplagakis.com/.